Published on January 21st, 2020

Whitney by Olivia Bee

In “Used To Be Lonely,” by Chicago indie rockers Whitney, the chorus is the song title with the last word repeated as a nostalgic echo. This simple but effective lyric encapsulates the growing momentum of this band and its infectious sound.

After the breakup of their popular Chicago band Smith Westerns, singer and drummer Julian Ehrlich and guitarist Max Kakacek found a new comradeship in their transition out of that band. The brash, twentysomething glam-garage rockers would turn into seasoned, almost-thirties soft rockers.

They’ve been lauded by indie lovers everywhere and in the Windy City in particular; even Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proclaimed August 30, 2019, the release day of their sophomore record, Forever Turned Around, as “Whitney Day.” To think it all began lackadaisically as a way to pass frosty winter mornings and to mend the void left by Smith Westerns’ implosion.

In the process, they created the persona of Whitney as their gestalt collaborator and creative scapegoat. The moment couldn’t have been better, with Ehrlich and Kakacek both experiencing a serious bout of creative fuel (read: romantic endings) and in the character of Whitney, they were able to abstractly explore the best way to exorcise the feelings.

Their debut, Light Upon the Lake, connected with listeners and propelled the new band into a serious touring cycle that continued revving up the energy and chemistry between them. With Forever Turned Around, they explore time and finite existence through questions of mortality, love and friendship. More than anything, it is a product of their kinship and need to create as much as possible together. Ehrlich and Kakacek are best friends and this album is a celebration of their bond; they might sing about loneliness, but they are lonely no more.

“Forever turned around is also the idea of seeing something that you can’t really unsee,” Ehrlich told The Fader in 2019. “You were blissfully unaware before, and now hyper-awareness needs to happen. Your idea of forever has actually turned around.”

Even better live, the band is rounded out by keyboardist Malcolm Brown, guitarist Print Choteau, bassist Josiah Marshall, trumpeter Will Miller, and former Smith Westerns bandmate Ziyad Asrar on rhythm guitar.

Whitney performs 7pm Wednesday February 5 at The Ground in Miami. whitneytheband.com ~ Abel Folgar

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